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    Default NOTRE-DAME-DU-LAC, Quebec

    Eastern Quebec town of 3,200 evacuated after fire destroys
    abattoir
    NOTRE-DAME-DU-LAC, Que. (CP) - Raging flames destroyed an
    abattoir that was the lifeblood of this eastern Quebec community,
    forcing 3,200 people from their homes and throwing 500 out of work.

    Residents were ordered from their homes after suppertime Tuesday
    when the blaze broke out at L'Abattoir du Breton, a plant that
    contained ammonia.
    No injuries were reported.
    But Mayor Real Voisine said Wednesday that hundreds of jobs
    throughout the region, about 450 kilometres northeast of Montreal
    near the New Brunswick boundary, hung in the balance.
    "Five hundred jobs have been lost - the economic impact is
    definitely a tragedy," said Voisine, who was forced to co-ordinate
    emergency efforts from a high school in nearby Cabano, Que.
    "There are people from 12 municipalities who worked there. So
    this doesn't just affect our municipality, it affects all the
    municipalities."
    Firefighters from several neighbouring communities were called
    in to battle the blaze.
    Provincial police spokesman Claude Ross said the fire was under
    control but continued to burn early Wednesday.
    "The worst was avoided," said Ross.
    The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
    Authorities ordered everyone within a 1.5-kilometre radius of
    the plant to leave the area.
    Ross said authorities were initially concerned that ammonia
    stored at the plant might seep into the air. But he said there was
    no indication of ammonia in the air as of early Wednesday.
    School gymnasiums and emergency shelters in the Quebec
    communities of Degelis, Cabano and Riviere-du-Loup were opened
    Tuesday to take in displaced residents. Authorities transported
    others to the homes of relatives or friends in the area.
    The local hospital near the plant was closed and patients were
    sent to hospitals in Riviere-du-Loup and Edmundston, N.B., each
    about 50 kilometres away.
    Voisine said emergency crews operated gas-detection equipment
    through the night to assess when it would be safe for residents to
    return home. He said officials hoped to send people home by late
    Wednesday, but there were concerns the town's water supply might
    still not be safe.
    "We warned people not to drink the water until a new water
    advisory is issued because with fire hoses dousing the site,
    (pollutants) could have entered the lake and our water system."
    Authorities immediately evacuated all residents within 800
    metres of the plant when flames were spotted at the abattoir. As
    the flames grew more intense and fears of a gas leak mounted, the
    entire town was cleared out.
    Chantal Poulin, a spokeswoman for the Regional Health Authority
    in northwest New Brunswick, said four patients from
    Notre-Dame-du-Lac hospital were sent to the regional hospital in
    Edmundston.
    "We took in three adults and a baby," Poulin said.
    "These patients were not injured in the fire. These are
    patients who were already hospitalized and had to be relocated
    because the hospital had to be closed."
    Voisine said the town would apply for emergency relief funds
    once the damage was assessed.
    Despite the devastating impact on the small rural community,
    Voisine said the fire was not the worst tragedy ever to befall
    Notre-Dame-du-Lac.
    He noted 40 people died in 1969 when fire ripped through a
    senior's residence.

    (Copyright 909 by The Associated Press

    NOTE: An abbattoir is defined as any premises or place habitually used for the slaughter of animals for human consumption.
    Last edited by NJFFSA16; 05-15-2002 at 07:47 AM.
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